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Richardson Grove Decision on the Horizon

Eel River Fog Blankets Forest (Murray Cooper Photo)

It has been several years that EPIC has been standing up to the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) proposal to further develop Highway 101 through the ancient redwood gateway in Richardson Grove State Park. Despite receiving heavy public opposition, Caltrans pushed obstinately forward with their plan. This stubbornness resulted in a pair of legal challenges to the Caltrans project, in both of which EPIC has played an integral role. The cases are now steadily heading towards a full hearing on their merits, and the court’s decision can be anticipated on the horizon just beyond the New Year in early 2012.

On December 6, 2011, attorneys for EPIC and plaintiffs filed a motion for summary judgment in federal court.  This filing is an important step in the process that will lead to the summary judgment hearing in the federal court in San Francisco on February 23, 2012.

The motion and supporting memorandum explain the precise legal claims against Caltrans, and illuminates the failure of the agency to follow this nation’s bedrock environmental laws.  EPIC and the plaintiffs request that the court declare Caltrans in violation of laws, and direct the agency to re-examine the Highway 101 widening project through Richardson Grove State Park.  Caltrans’ project threatens irreplaceable and rare majestic old-growth redwoods at risk of significant and, in fact, mortal impacts, while also potentially causing several other significant environmental impacts within the state protected area. The law requires, and the people of California and the nation as a whole deserve, that Caltrans undertake a complete analysis of the Project’s impacts.

Redwood Temperate Rainforest (Murray Cooper Photo)

There is a parallel legal challenge to the Caltrans proposal for Richardson Grove in State Court; the hearing in that case will take place in Eureka, in Humboldt County Superior Court, on March 14, 2012.

EPIC and plaintiffs have stood their ground against Caltrans and project proponents through a long and contentious process.  All of this hard work has produced results by securing a preliminary injunction against the project, raising grassroots support in opposition to Caltrans’ plans that threaten some of the last old-growth redwoods in the world, and putting the incoherence of the State of California’s management of our globally important redwood parks in the spotlight. We are working towards a favorable decision, and aspire to have this be a landmark case in which the Government of the State of California will reexamine it’s priorities and improve it’s policies in terms of directing state agencies and protecting biodiversity. Kudos are due to our citizen coplaintiffs, and to the Center for Biological Diversity and Californians for Alternatives to Toxics, for everything they have done on this journey. We extend gratitude to our attorneys for prosecuting this case pro bono and doing an outstanding job, and we thank all of the community members who have been, and will be, supporting us in this important advocacy work.


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